When Abigail, mom of Sticky, from The Milk Drunk Foundation in South Florida, asked if we would do a feature on Almond, an adorable tabby cat who has been searching for her forever home for nearly a year, we readily agreed! We learned that when Almond was rescued in August 2022 as a tiny kitten, she had encephalocele, a neural tube defect that causes a sac-like protrusion to protrude through an opening in the skull. While we’ve featured lots of cats over the year, including many with neurological issues, we’d never even heard of encephalocele. Not only did we want to learn more about this relatively rare condition, but we also wanted to help Almond get adopted!
Michelle Bucur, one of the founders of The Milk Drunk Foundation and Almond’s long-term fosterer, graciously agreed to answer our questions. We learned all about encephalocele, including what it is and how it’s treated, and we also got to hear how Almond and her siblings wound up at The Milk Drunk Foundation when they were just four weeks old. We really enjoyed learning about this very special girl, and we hope you do too!
Meow As Fluff: How did you end up meeting Almond?
Michelle: Almond was first found by a good Samaritan who spotted her and all her siblings just outside her yard. Mom had been killed and the babies had been left all alone. Almond was roughly four weeks old upon intake, but almost half the size of her siblings. Her “growth” was almost as big as her head.
MAF: Can you please tell me a bit about what encephalocele is and how it affects Almond?
M: An encephalocele occurs when the neural tube fails to close completely during fetal development, leading to a sac-like protrusion of the brain through the skull.
In Almond’s case, this sac was only filled with CSF (cerebral-spinal fluid) and not her brain. Thanks to this discovery, her neurologist was able to treat and reduce the growth with oral treatment. Over the course of eight months, the sac was able to reduce in size to almost nothing. As of now, her encephalocele is nearly invisible and it does not affect her quality of life. She is a normal, beautiful kitty!
MAF: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you think people have about Almond and cats with encephalocele?
M: The biggest concern for potential adopters is that an encephalocele kitty will require special and costly care. The truth is that now that her treatment is over and she has been off medication for 4+ months, the neurologist is hopeful that her growth will not return and Almond can live a normal, long, and happy life.
MAF: What are some of the challenges the rescue and Almond have faced as a result of her having encephalocele?
M: Funding! As a new rescue, and having just incorporated a few months prior to Almond arriving to us, raising funds for Almond’s diagnostics was rough. We were lucky to have enough friends and family who contributed to the rescue and Almond was able to receive the care she needed and deserved.
MAF: What do you wish more people knew about special needs cats, particularly cats with encephalocele?
M: They also need a chance to be adopted and loved. While a special needs cat may seem daunting, more often than not, the extra care required just allows for the kitty and adopter to build a stronger bond and love for one another. I find this to be a positive aspect and not a negative one. We just need more people to agree with this concept
MAF: They also need a chance to be adopted and loved. While a special needs cat may seem daunting, more often than not, the extra care required just allows for the kitty and adopter to build a stronger bond and love for one another. I find this to be a positive aspect and not a negative one. We just need more people to agree with this concept
M: Almond has a friend in the cattery, his name is Rango. Her favorite activities are cuddling and grooming with Rango. Chasing each other’s tails, and zooming across the cattery climbing up and down all the high shelves is definitely a favorite pastime of both.
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MAF: Can you tell me the story behind her name?
M: Her almond-shaped head! Her original full name was Almond the Caticorn.
MAF: Can you please describe her ideal adopter?
M: Her ideal adopter is a loving home. She loves cats and dogs alike, as well as children. Any home with lots of love to give would be the ideal home.
MAF: What does she mean to you and the rescue?
M: Almond means so much to The Milk Drunk Foundation. She is our philosophy: Each orphaned baby must be given individualized care and unconditional love. Though we will be so incredibly grateful for when she gets adopted, we will miss her tremendously.
To learn more about Almond, you can follow The Milk Drunk Foundation on Instagram.
If you’re interested in adopting this special cat, you can complete an adoption application.